LAS VEGAS — Late Tuesday afternoon, manager Dave Roberts had his scheduled media appearance at the Winter Meetings. MLB schedules a 30-minute media session for each manager and Roberts was one of the last managers scheduled on Tuesday.
This was the first time Roberts had met with the media since his four-year extension was announced last week.
“I’m happy, I’m ecstatic, I’m excited” Roberts said when asked about his extension. “We knew it was going to happen, I’m happy it got done and I’m thrilled.”
While not being specific about any particular rumored move, Roberts said the team was “kicking around” different scenarios.
“I think the challenge is to look at a pretty good ball club and to feel that you need to tweak it a little bit,” Roberts said. “We are just really cognizant to acquire the right player that makes sense for our ball club, our culture and it’s difficult.
Roberts also talked about some of the current Dodgers and what they were doing now and what he thinks about their status going into the next season.
2018 was a “tough year” for Cody Bellinger
Roberts said that when you look at Bellinger’s overall numbers and combine that with versatility and defensive ability, his year was pretty good. But he also thinks that his slow start made it a grind for him.
“I think if you look at he fared against left-handed pitching this year was a surprising to all of us,” Roberts said. “And Cody was disappointed in that. I don’t think he synced up all year with his mechanics and there were spurts when he was really good.”
Given that, Roberts said he thinks Bellinger and the Dodgers hitting coaches will work on his mechanics and approach. He also mentioned that when Bellinger used the whole field, in particular with two strikes, he was a better hitter.
The team has a lot of starting pitchers
When asked about any of the current starting pitchers on the 40-man roster, Roberts pretty much said he saw them as a starting pitcher for the 2019 Dodgers.
Even though it’s still December, you can figure that four of the five members of the Dodger starting rotation are Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, and Hyun-jin Ryu. That leaves a lot of names for that fifth spot. Roberts talked about some of those candidates on Tuesday.
Where does that leave guys like Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling and Julio Urías?
“Kenta’s going to start, we expect Ross to compete for a starting job,” Roberts said. “He was an All-Star last year.”
Roberts believes Stripling’s injury issues caught up with him late last year but he also said “he is going to get opportunities to build on the innings pitched.”
There will be an innings limit on Urías in 2019 though Roberts does not know what that limit will be. “We got to figure out how to go about ramping him up for the season but ultimately we see Julio as a major league starter.”
On Monday, Andrew Friedman talked about Alex Wood working on his mechanics which could include going back to a windup. When asked about that, Roberts supports whatever Wood wants to do improve.
“We see Alex as a starter and I’m all for what he feels comfortable doing,” Roberts said. “In talking with Alex, he wasn’t really synced mechanically with his delivery all year. So, going back to the windup, I think that he feels good about it, I know that Rick Honeycutt feels good about it, so I’m in on that.”
After Roberts talked about Wood, he was asked again about all the starters. He said that for now, the Dodgers don’t have to make any decisions but he also said it was a position where the team had a lot of depth.
Second base will be handled internally for now
Right now, the Dodgers don’t have one particular player penciled in at second base but Roberts believes the Dodgers have that covered with players already on the team.
“I think that we have some very good options at second base,” Roberts said. “Kiké (Hernandez) is a plus defender at second base, we like (Chris) Taylor over there, the versatility with both those guys.”
“And also, I trust Max (Muncy) over there at second base,” Roberts added. “Can I see him there everyday, probably not. We expect Max to get a ton of at bats next year and at first base and at second base.”
Dodgers do need another catcher to pair with Austin Barnes
Like Friedman, Roberts believes that Barnes will be better offensively in 2019. “Him behind the plate, blocking, receiving, relationship with the pitchers is next level, is elite,” Roberts said. “I expect a comeback, ready to compete.”
“I trust Austin,” Roberts added. “He’s a winning player for me. We feel comfortable with Austin. Do we have to have someone to pair with him, absolutely.”
Roberts talks about his new third base coach Dino Ebel
Ebel returns to the Dodger organization after spending the last thirteen years working for the Angels. He had been Mike Scioscia’s third base coach for nine of those seasons.
“Dino is one of the best third base if not the best third base coaches in the game.” Roberts talked about Ebel’s coaching position players and in particular, base running. Roberts thought the Angels were one of the best base running teams in baseball.